Featured Participatory Project: Help Expose the Attempts to Spin Wikipedia (Week 2)

Last week we started a new participatory project to expose the government agencies, corporations and lobbying groups that have been censoring, whitewashing or otherwise spinning Wikipedia. (See CMD Senior Researcher Diane Farsetta's great blog post for some background on this sordid tale.) So far we've logged several attempts at spin into the respective SourceWatch profiles, including:

The information here is obviously very important and, thanks to SourceWatch's high rankings in Google searches, easily accessible to citizens, journalists and policymakers checking out the record of these politically active and high social-impact organizations. There are many dastardly edits left, however, and we need your help to make sure they aren't lost to history. There's no need for technical expertise, just head over to the SourceWatch page for the project, where there are complete instructions, examples and an email hotline for support. If this is your first time editing on SourceWatch, you can register here, and learn more about adding information to the site here and here.


Remember to take it with a grain of salt.

One, it only catches not-logged-in edits - if someone creates a login, their IP doesn't show up and won't be in the public database dumps. So WikiScanner only catches the beginner spinners.

Two, the IP assignment data is only the current data, not historical data - and there's no good database of historical IP allocations, simply because there's no reason for anyone to keep them. This has already caught one set of edits that came from IPs allocated to the office of the Prime Minister of Australia, but which at the time the edits were made was actually assigned to someone else. So if you see something that looks really bad, it needs proper investigation before telling the world!

It also works the other way. A year or so ago, I noticed some edits to both Wikipedia and Sourcewatch that came from IP numbers allocated to the [[American Enterprise Institute]], but apparently those IP numbers have subsequently been reassigned, and they're not showing up in WikiScanner.

to see if there were any inferences regarding affiliations that could be made from the reassignment? I would be interested to know who else was affected. If this was just a one to one IP swap with another right-sided org, it may well have been done to obfuscate AEI's hidden hand directing Wikipedia in the past. It could also provide data points that illuminated underlying affiliations heretofore unknown.

I presently show AEI.org network controlling the following IPs, inclusive: -

Currently they are hosted by cogentco.com, but more specifically by Performance Systems International Inc.(PSI), which was acquired by Cogent at some point over the last few years. I didn't check for an acquisition date. Also, AEI seems to have been hosted by PSI since at least as far back as 1999. Their network assignation is fixed, not dynamic. It is unusual, but not unheard of for a network address change. Still I am curious about it. If you have the old IP address handy, I'd appreciate it messaged, but don't go out of your way looking; it isn't that important. AEI may have just decided their Network IP delegation was too small or too large, and in the readjustment, they received a different block. That's a common rider in Hosting contracts.

Also, there is a down side to this tool that I think few can perceive. Not so much at Sourcewatch, as Wikipedia though. Persons are much less likely to engage in anonymous editing once they learn of this tool. Does anyone know if wikipedia is monitoring for posts that connect through well-known public proxies? I recently had a need for a roving interstate net access, which my current DSL provider Embarq, no longer offers since they ended their Earthlink association. I decided to go with a pay as you go provider, and have been satisfied given the understandable connect speed limitations over on an analog phone line network access. I discovered it came with surprising added value though; a multiple choice of networks to connect through. This pay as I go access could be fairly anonymous from even the ISP, by only purchasing more time through retail vendors, and paying cash. So this access offers multiple networks, which themselves provide dynamic IPs from a fairly widely distributed geographical CIDR, which does not provide focused GIS resolving through simple reverse look-ups. If I desired to be a sock, anywhere I felt like on the net; this would be an great method, as server logs would not likely provide the data needed to recognize it, especially if I also spoofed or suppressed my personal network's mac address. Guaranteed, if I easily perceived this, there are, and there will be others who will see it also, but some will use it as their sock enabler, or for trolling, just because they can.

I'm going to relate a bit of my last venture onto Wikipedia now, but because I strongly believe my Sourcewatch association, and past battles over Wikipedia's content should remain unrelated, I am not going to be overly specifics.

My last Wikipedia battle over twisted content was a the beginning of this year, and related to a well known American political figure who is often associated with the 'family values' right, but just a little focusing on the pol's family-life history, using just news articles indicates a very low valuation the individual has given family. While doing some research, I noticed a Google Search record that referenced a bit of recent Wikipedia arguing about whether to include mention of this on the pol' bio stub. I traversed to the stub's talk page and as is often my manner, with sarcastic styling, made a case for the inclusion of some data, but backed up my statements of fact with 4 citations, three of which I consider to be sound; one iffy, because it was a major publication's gossip columnist, and was claws out catty in its styling. One of the sound cites was a David Corn authored article. The other two were several years old from two major US urban daily newspapers of different corporate parentage, and contrary to my usual citations directly to their paid databases, I instead dropped direct links to their Internet Archives locations. When I returned to the page a few days later, I discovered my post had been entirely deleted and in the versioning log the rationale was given that I was a troll under some new standards code of issued by the Wikipaedarchy.

The talk page had a critique of my post written by the person who had deleted it, in which was intimated that I had a hidden agenda (it's an agenda alright, but it's laughable to define it as hidden), and only the gossip citation was critiqued, not the other three citations. This is the second time my posted content on Wikipedia which I placed on a stub's talk page questions of the article's bias along with citations, has been deleted by an editor who possessed Wiki Cred, but a lack of honesty and honour. I've even created words describing both the editor and the edit: "wikipettifogger", using the suffix pettifogger: shyster, and "wikipediculous" using the suffix, pediculous: louse ridden. After discussing this with a few personal contacts who have also attempted to correct problems within Wikipedia, one who in the past was a productive editor, the consensus seems to be that Wikipedia is broken beyond repair in its current structuring, and there is now a very low probability that it will be able to clean up its errancy under this structuring.

A quick synopsis of why I believe the model is failing is: the democratic ideals upon which the commons were promulgated have been perverted, and it has become a feudalistic nightmare all about warlords, and the small areas of content controlled by their fiefdoms. I cannot perceive a left/right dominance from the instances I have experienced, or watched this happening. Even the new overlords of non-bias at Wikipedia will not willingly battle against warlords unless the stub exists within what they consider to be their zone of control. Twice since my last post on Wikipedia, persons who have identified themselves as members of this oversight committee, have posted replies to comments I've made questioning Wikipedia's inherent veracity. In both instances, I provided them with a public pointer to an email account, and promised I would use the same IP used for that edit as my email posting address, if they cared to contact me regarding the specifics. Neither of them took me up on the offer. I believe that there was a point when the wikipedia user base grew beyond the model's ability to continue as valid. I also believe that because of the present Balkanization within its community, careful, intelligent nihilists and political ideologues are able to roam freely, and will continue to insert dirty data into the knowledge base. The destructive is always easier to bring into being than the creative, and because of this, the total number of active nihilists need be only a small fractional part of the entire community.

It's something to think about Sheldon. I don't think that Sourcewatch has been affected by this yet, and I am still a big believer in the propriety of open source knowledge bases. It is a very nice fit with my strong personal beliefs in the righteousness of personal liberty. You have implemented some good changes. An appointed official head editor of Sourcewatch was a good idea. Bob Burton was an excellent choice, as he adhered strongly to democratic processes in many of the difficult decisions, and at the very least, will listen to the other side(s) in a dispute. It is also a very good defense to keep as many of the active editors as possible engaged in other sections than just their primary focuses. It serves to have the fence lines ridden this way.

Apologies for the long drifting post. h_m

When I checked, the IP numbers that used to point to AEI seem to be pointing now to a generic internet service provider, not to some other conservative think tank. Incidentally, the reason that I noticed that AEI owned the IP numbers was that someone there had repeatedly edited articles about some of their own staff. I guess I should have written something about this at the time I noticed it happening. Now that the IP numbers have changed, I can't prove publicly that it was them (which is why I'm not going into further specifics about which articles were edited, etc.).

As for the issues you raise about Wikipedia, I think Wikipedia certainly has some problems, but I wouldn't go so far as to call it "broken beyond repair." It's often useful as a reference resource, and it has a huge collection of articles on a wide range of topics. Wikipedians have a running problem with trolls, vandals and POV-pushers of various stripes, and sometimes their systems for handling this are less transparent than they claim, but I don't think anyone has yet figured out a perfect way to run a wiki.

I sense there is a need to clarify a bit from my last post. First, personal network contacts I consider germane to Wikipedia, are not connected to each other, and to my knowledge, are not in contact with each other (i keep my personal contacts tightly to myself). It does not represent some weird cabal. They are just people, who at some time in my past I contacted, and with whom I still occasionally communicate, who have also offered personally acquired insight regarding Wikipedia.

Secondly, several times I've tried to work changes in Wikipedia's article, always from the talk pages, never from the main stub, I've been portrayed as some sort of enemy to Wikipedia. In contrast, Sourcewatch has not cast any dispersions upon my motives, even though some of my muses placed upon article talk pages have been both provocative and raving. It is also noteworthy that Sourcewatch members have seen fit to leave it up to me as to when these muses should be removed. Sometimes, I've discovered this through search engines when doing research, much later, and much to my embarrassment.

I did not say that Wikipedia is necessarily broken, only that the consensus among persons I communicate about Wikipedia seems to be this. I've not gone that far yet, but I am currently in agreement with another consensus amongst them, and that is the recommendation that I simply walk-away from it, the path to change it is not mine.

Conservapedian hakusanoja

Marraskuussa 2006 toimintansa aloittanut Conservapedia pitää Wikipediaa epäkristillisenä ja anti-amerikkalaisena. Osa Conservapedian sisällöstä näyttää olevan jatkuvasti muutoksen tilassa. Sitä on epäilty myös parodiaksi. Viime aikoina myös anti-konservatiivit ovat kirjoittaneet sinne hengessä jota pitävät conservapedialle ominaisena.
Oman käsityksen hakuteoksesta voi muodostaa katsomalla mitä Conservapedia sanoo George Washingtonista, Charles Darwinista, Joseph Stalinista tai kengurusta, kaikki hakusanoja joiden sisältöä lukuisat bloggaajat ovat irvineet. Ilmeisesti yleisen pilkan vuoksi Stalinin kohdalta on jo poistettu seuraava lause "He was defeated by Adolf Hitler, despite Hitler also being an atheist." Tällä hetkellä Stalinia koskevat tiedot päättyvät toteamukseen: "he (...) forced women to work in factories just like men."

Myös hakusana Russia on mielenkiintoinen:

"It has only been conquered once in the winter, by the famous Ghangas -Kan. Hitler, Napoleon and many other famous military geniouses have tried to conquer it during the winter but all failed."

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